By Jake Donovan
The strategy behind building Gennady Golovkin in the New York City area never had anything to do with Miguel Cotto.
That doesn’t mean it can’t lead to an eventual showdown with Miguel Cotto.
“That would be a spectacular event,” suggests Tom Loeffler, Managing Director of K2 Promotions, under whose banner Golovkin has fought for the duration of his middleweight title reign.
Cotto had just won his third major title in as many weight classes by the time Golovkin entered the middleweight title picture in August 2010. A former champ at 140 and 147, there was little thought about Cotto moving beyond the super welterweight division, or even how long his title reign would last.
Four years later, the two not only reside in the same division, but are regarded as the two most significant middleweights in the world.
Cotto turned the boxing world on its axis after a shockingly one-sided stoppage win of long-reigning lineal middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in June. The feat took place at Madison Square Garden, a venue which Cotto has proudly represented more so than any other fighter in the 21st Century. The Puerto Rican superstar has headlined at the World’s Most Famous Arena nine times, having starred in every major card in the main room since 2009.
That statement changes on July 26 when Golovkin faces former middleweight titlist Daniel Geale. The bout is his first in the big arena after having played The Theatre three times in a breakout 2013 campaign.
“Gennady will be the first fighter besides Miguel Cotto to carry an event in the big arena since 2008,” points out Loeffler. “Wladimir Klitschko sold out the arena (in a points win over Sultan Ibragimov), and Roy Jones fought twice there (versus Felix Trinidad and Joe Calzaghe) that year. Every other event since then has been headlined by Miguel Cotto.”
“That’s how much marketability we’ve built. Gennady fits into that elite category.”
Golovkin took the boxing world by storm in 2013, scoring four knockouts in as many fights. The Fighter of the Year-level campaign was followed up by a stoppage win over Osumanu Adama earlier this year, running his total to 16 consecutive knockouts dating back to 2008.
It was a shot at an interim title that led Golovkin outside of Europe, where he had fought exclusively from his pro debut in 2006 until joining the K2 Promotions family four years later. From the moment Golovkin contended for a major title, he has truly put the ‘world’ in world champion, fighting in Panama, Germany, Monte Carlo, Ukraine and even a one-time trip home to his native Kazakhstan before establishing his star power in the Northeast region of the United States.
A stateside tour was inevitable once he began training with Abel Sanchez, with camps taking place in Big Bear, California. The upcoming showdown with Geale marks his fifth fight in the U.S., all of which has taken place on HBO. Each visit has resulted in a significant increase in ratings, from his Sept. ’12 knockout win over Grzregorz Proksa in his network debut to last November’s rout of Curtis Stevens, which registered as the third-highest rated HBO-televised fight of 2013 while playing to a virtually sold-out crowd at The Theatre.
Golovkin’s star power grew enough to where there was significant outrage over HBO’s inability to air his win over Adama on its airwaves. Plans called for a return in April, only to have to be placed on the backburner due to the untimely passing of his father.
The shift in plans allowed for Golovkin to land his toughest challenge on paper to date, coming on the heels of the most significant middleweight title fight of the year. Cotto made history by becoming the first Puerto Rican fighter to win a major title in four separate weight classes, all playing to a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden.
Included among the crowd were Golovkin and Geale, both of whom had a vested interest in the outcome.
“It was a great fight. All four fighters on the July 26 show were on hand. There was a lot of electricity in the air,” Loeffler said of Cotto’s feat. “There was a lot of talk about Gennady fighting Sergio had he won the fight. Cotto turned back the clock, and unfortunately for Sergio, it wasn’t the Sergio Martinez of old that night.
“You really have to take your hat off to Cotto. As a promoter, naturally I began thinking about the possibility of a fight between Gennady and Miguel Cotto. Gennady is locked in on his fight with Geale, and that’s his job as a fighter, to only worry about the fighter in front of him. My job as a promoter to look forward to the future, and - with a win over Geale – we are looking to return to the ring in the fall or early winter, depending on the opportunity.”
Original plans called for Golovkin to fight four times in 2014, duplicating what he was able to accomplish last year. Given his father’s passing, those plans shifted but he still plans on three fights this year, which is more than what most of the best fighters in the world are granting its fans.
“Gennady just wants to fight,” Loeffler says of his rising superstar. “He wants to fight and put on the most exciting performances possible. HBO has given him the platform to excel in his career and get him the necessary visibility on the worldwide stage. Gennady has delivered on his side. In his four fights on HBO, he has clearly become the highest rising star in terms of ratings. He’s at a 30% increase over his previous fights, and that’s never happened.”
As for what will happen in the future – that’s up to how well Golovkin performs on July 26, and the willingness of his peers to step to him.
“When he will return depends, of course on his beating Geale, and then the opportunity that presents itself,” Loeffler says of the timetable for the rest of the year. “With HBO backing him, Gennady will most likely fight in the fall in the United States. If Carl Froch returns in the fall and decides he would like to face Golovkin, then we could be looking at a November return. If talks with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. renew (the two were supposed to fight in July until Chavez Jr. withdrew due to a developing rift with Top Rank), then that’s another possibility.
“But I will say, with Cotto… he’s one of the few fighters left in the sport who can fight on pay-per-view and generate interest throughout the boxing industry. With Miguel’s win over Sergio Martinez to become middleweight champ, he moves to the top of our list of desirable fights.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox